At our house, a good roast chicken dinner is followed by making soup stock with the leftovers. Tossing the carcass and aromatics in a large soup pot and letting it simmer away for a few hours is very satisfying. Even Darryl seems to enjoy this task. Maybe it’s because you get something so good for so little work.
When we make stock, it gets used right away in a big batch of Chicken Corn Chowder, Beef and Barley Soup or Chicken Noodle Soup. While soup stock can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days or frozen for extended periods, ours always disappears too quickly. So yes, sometimes I rely on commercial stock or paste in recipes calling for soup stock. While I much prefer our homemade stock for flavor and nutrition, sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.
We’re pretty laissez faire in our stock making. We follow a general procedure but there’s no measuring involved and every batch is as unique as the contents of our fridge on stock making day. This carefree approach has certainly led to a few interesting lessons along the way (side note – never add cloves or parsnips when making stock). Now, almost 20 years after the clove stock incident, we make some mighty fine stock.
If you want an awesome flavorful stock that’s easy to make, here’s how we do it. You’ll notice I included measurements – these are general guidelines only.
Remember your stock is an ingredient in soup – it is not soup in itself. It is a building block, so don’t expect the full flavor of soup in your stock. When you use your stock in a recipe, that’s when you add spices and seasonings to match your final dish.
- 1 chicken carcass, giblets & neck (no liver)
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 2-3 celery stalks & leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 - 3 carrots, roughly chopped
- any vegetable peelings & ends (if available)
- leftover tomato salsa, sauce, paste or juice (if available)
- any vegetables hiding in the back of the fridge (if available, see note)
- 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme (1 tsp dried)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley (leaves & stems)
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 6 - 8 cups water
- Place chicken carcass, neck and giblets (if available) in bottom of pot. For greater flavor and to get the most gelatin, crack or cut the carcass and some of the bones. If that's too gooey for you, it's okay to skip this and just toss in the whole carcass!
- Add vegetables, herbs and spices.
- Cover with 6 to 8 cups cold water so that everything is covered by at least one inch of water.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat immediately to a simmer. Keeping a low simmer instead of a hard boil will improve the clarity of your stock.
- Skim off any foam build-up several times throughout the cooking process to improve the clarity of your stock.
- Simmer for 3 to 4 hours.
- Taste your stock at various stages (careful it will be really hot!) to see how it is progressing.
- Remove from heat and carefully remove and discard large pieces of vegetables or bones from the pot.
- Pour the stock through a fine mesh strainer into a clean pot or bowl.
- Strain again through several layers of cheese cloth for a more refined stock.
- Cool and store promptly in a refrigerator, preferably over night.
- When the stock has cooled sufficiently, skim off any fat that has collected on the top with a spoon.
- Heat and use your stock as desired. Adjust seasoning accordingly.
- Makes 6-8 cups of stock
- Avoid using strong tasting vegetables so they don't overpower the flavor of your stock (beets, broccoli, fennel, asparagus, rutabaga, parsnips, cabbage, cauliflower etc.)
- Starchy veggies like potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash will make your stock cloudy.
- ***Make this in a crock pot. Simply toss everything in a crock-pot, turn to low and cook for 8 hours.
It’s hard to include all the little hints and tips I’ve learned about stock making in the formal recipe, so here some thoughts regarding common questions or concerns I’ve heard about making homemade soup stock.
My Stock is Jiggly
If your stock turned into a thick jiggly jelly after it cooled, congratulations! You have yourself a rich, flavorful and nutritious stock filled with gelatin – a protein from the chicken bones. It’s highly prized in the soup making world and it’s healthy – it’s probably one of the reasons chicken soup has a reputation for fighting illness. And don’t worry, once you heat that stock it’ll be liquidy again.
If your stock didn’t turn jiggly, that’s okay too, it just doesn’t have a lot of gelatin in it. This may be because your water to bones ratio was a little too high or you just didn’t simmer your stock long enough. To get the most gelatin, chop bones with a clever so that there is more surface area exposed to all the goodness inside them.
Should I Add Salt
You’ll get different answers to this question. Personally, I add a bit of salt while making stock to help draw out the flavor from the meat and bones. However, I wait to add any more salt until I’m making whatever recipe I’m using the stock in.
My Stock Isn’t Very Flavorful
A common concern that requires a two part answer.
First, don’t expect your soup stock to taste like canned stock or like bouillon cube stock; they’re often high in salt and sometimes MSG to boost flavor. Your stock is not soup – it’s the basis or foundation for soup or another recipe. You will build flavor on top of it.
With that said, here are some ideas for making stock more flavorful:
- Make sure you’re letting it simmer long enough so that you’re getting the maximum flavor out of your ingredients. It really does take at least 3-4 hours.
- Be cautious of your water to meat and veggie ratio. It’s tempting to try to make a lot of stock by adding more water, but this will impact the final flavor. If you want more volume, add more veggies and bones. To ensure you have enough meat/bones and veggies, consider keeping a bag of stock add-ins in your freezer. Whenever you have vegetable ends or a couple of bones, freeze them. Then add those to the pot when your making your stock.
- Add soy sauce or fish sauce to boost the flavor profile. Just make sure their flavor will go with how you intend to use your stock.
- Reduce your stock by simmering your strained stock for another 1-2 hours. This will evaporate some of the water and leave a more concentrated flavor.
- My recipe calls for a tablespoon of vinegar to help up the flavor. Consider adding more acid to the stock – lemon or lime juice or even red or white wine depending on your final use.
My Stock is Cloudy
First, let me ask you – is that really an issue? Unless your serving a clear broth, who will ever notice how clear your stock is? If clarity is a concern for you, here are some tips for getting a more clear stock:
- Simmer don’t boil your stock. Boiling will break everything up into tiny bits that are hard to filter out later. A crock pot really helps in ensuring a nice even heat without boiling.
- Skim frequently throughout the simmering stage.
- Consider your ingredients carefully. Starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes or corn will make your stock cloudy. Tomato products will darken the color.
- Consider clarifying your stock by adding 2 lightly beaten egg whites to the top of your stock and letting them float there while your finished stock simmers for 5 minutes. As the egg white cooks, it will pick up any particles in the stock. I’ve tried this once. It made the stock a little more clear, but it’s not that big a deal for me.
How Long Will My Soup Stock Last
- Keep your stock in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Freeze your stock in commonly used amounts (eg. 1 or 2 cups) for up to 6 months. It will be safe to consume even longer than that, but will start to lose some flavor.
- Safely can your soup stock in a pressure canner as recommended by the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
Want to learn more? Get Getty to facilitate a home cooking session like “30 Minute Soups” for you, a group of friends or a community group. Getty Stewart is an engaging and enthusiastic facilitator that makes it fun and easy to learn tasty recipes, time-saving tips, and helpful kitchen ideas. She is a Professional Home Economist, author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, mom and veggie gardener.